Human Resources
401(k) Index &  Observations: 2015 Index Comments

2015 Index Comments

  • According to the Aon Hewitt 401(k) IndexTM, 2015 was the lightest trading year on record for participants in defined contribution plans. Overall, 1.52% of balances were transferred in 2015—well below the historical average of 2.88%. There were 39 days of above-normal1 daily transfer activity in 2015. The number of above-normal days in 2015 (39) is in line with the average number of above-normal days over the past 5 years (35) and past 10 years (35).
  • Part of the light trading activity can be explained by the prevalence of target-date2 funds, which are now the largest asset class in the 401(k) IndexTM. As of year-end 2015, target-date funds represented 23.1% of total assets, slightly edging out Large U.S. Equity (22.7%).
  • When participants made trades, they tended to favor fixed income funds over equity instruments. GIC/stable value funds received the most inflows while the majority of outflows came from target-date funds and company stock.

Asset Classes with Most Trading Inflows in 2015

Percent of Inflows Index Dollar Value ($ mil)
GIC/stable value funds 41% $890
International funds 23% $503
Money markets funds 19% $410


Asset Classes with Most Trading Outflows in 2015

Percent of Outflows Index Dollar Value ($ mil)
Target-date funds 37% $795
Company Stock 30% $655
Large U.S. equity funds 20% $430


Asset Classes with Most Contributions in 2015

Percent of Contributions Index Dollar Value ($ mil)
Target-date funds 42% $498
Large U.S. equity funds 19% $222

After reflecting contributions, trades, fund changes, and market activity, participants ended the year with 65.4% in equities—a decrease from 66.4% of assets invested in equities at the end of 2014.


Percent of Balances in Aon Hewitt 401(k) Index

Asset Class Year End 2015 Year End 2014 Change
Money Market 1.5% 1.4% 0.1%
GIC/Stable Value 13.2% 11.9% 1.3%
Bond 8.5% 9.5% (1.0%)
Balanced 2.4% 2.3% 0.1%
Target-date funds 23.1% 22.7% 0.4%
Large Cap US Equity 22.7% 22.9% (0.2%)
Mid Cap US Equity 4.7% 4.9% (0.2%)
Small Cap US Equity 3.6% 4.0% (0.4%)
International 7.4% 6.4% 1.0%
Emerging Markets 0.4% 0.6% (0.2%)
Specialty/Sector 0.8% 0.9% (0.1%)
Company Stock 9.5% 11.0% (1.5%)
Self-Directed Brokerage 2.1% 1.6% 0.5%


Asset Class Year End 2015 Year End 2014 Change
Equity 65.4% 66.4% (1.0%)
Fixed Income 34.6% 33.6% 1.0%


Wall Street ended 2015 with weak returns. The Barclays Aggregate Index gained 0.6%, while the S&P 500 Index gained 1.4%. The Russell 2000 Index returns were -4.4% for the year, and the non-U.S. equities lagged as well with the MSCI All Country World ex-U.S. Index posting -5.7% returns. The following tables show Aon Hewitt 401(k) Index statistics and the returns of major market indices for January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2015.


Index Statistics 2015 YTD
Total Transfers as Percent of Starting Balance 1.52%
Number of Fixed Days 139 (56%)
Number of Equity Days 109 (44%)
Number of Above Normal1 Days 39


Indices Returns 2015 YTD
Barclays Capital U.S. Aggregate Bond Index 0.6%
S&P 500 Index 1.4%
Russell 2000 Index -4.4%
MSCI All Country World ex-U.S. Index (net) -5.7%


1A “normal” level of relative transfer activity is when the net daily movement of participants’ balances, as a percent of total 401(k) balances within the Aon Hewitt 401(k) IndexTM equals between 0.3 times and 1.5 times the average daily net activity of the preceding 12 months. A “high” relative transfer activity day is when the net daily movement exceeds two times the average daily net activity. A “moderate” relative transfer activity day is when the net daily movement is between 1.5 and 2 times the average daily net activity of the preceding 12 months.

2Target-date funds also include the amounts in target-risk funds for companies who do not have target-date funds. The amount in the target-risk funds is less than 10% of the total.